The UFC is back with a PPV card this Saturday evening (at 6:30pm EST) from Las Vegas, Nevada. Conor McGregor returns to the Octagon for a highly-anticipated matchup with the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov for the Lightweight title. The undercard features a few duds, but the main card is stacked which should make for an entertaining night. Unfortunately, we are down to 12 fights after Sean O’Malley was flagged for a banned substance but there are still lots of viable options for your DFS lineups. As usual, I will highlight my favorite plays in each format to help narrow down your decisions.
* Current betting odds and finish props can be found at BestFightOdds.com
Khabib Nurmagomedov ($8400)(-160) vs Conor McGregor ($7800)(+150) – I’ve been asked several times who I think is going to win this fight and it’s honestly a tough call to make since I believe that either fighter can win in a lopsided fashion (the sharps seem to all be on Khabib and the casuals all seem to be on McGregor FWIW). Khabib could easily dominate the fight on the ground or McGregor could knock him out early. Khabib seems to have a decent chin but has never faced anyone with as much power as McGregor, and McGregor has an underrated ground game but has never faced anyone with as dominant top control as Khabib. Khabib’s style is much lower variance than McGregor’s dependence on the KO, however, so it makes sense that he’s the favorite going into this matchup.
Focusing on DFS, the main event is an all-in fight for me in both formats. Both fighters are way underpriced relative to their career scoring averages and there are very few scenarios where the winner does not end up on the winning GPP lineup. The only lower-scoring scenario I see possible is if Khabib smothers McGregor on the ground for the first two rounds and McGregor ends up landing a KO in the third round or later and doesn’t have the striking points to back up the later finish points. However, I think this scenario is very unlikely since McGregor shouldn’t have as much power left if he’s been dominated for multiple rounds.
This fight could really go either way, and while I would never count out McGregor when the spotlight is on, I feel that Khabib makes for the better play on DK. His relentless grappling game and dominant top control is the ideal style to have for DK scoring and I expect McGregor to be the higher-owned fighter at his price tag in large-field GPPs with so many casual players out for this event. I could see the ownerships being reversed in higher-stakes tournaments however, with so many of the regulars being on Khabib, that McGregor becomes a more appealing play in those contests. If you have a strong preference for either fighter then I think taking an aggressive stance on one side is a perfectly fine idea in GPPs, but I will be looking to split things 60/40 or 70/30 myself. In cash games, I think stacking the fight is the safer approach (and that’s the route I will be going) but if you prefer taking just one side, then I like going with Khabib.
Cash Game Plays
Vicente Luque ($9400)(-850) and Tony Ferguson ($9300)(-370) – Luque and Ferguson both stand out as being the most reliable plays on the card and I like paying up for one or both in cash games if possible. Luque is by far the largest favorite on the card and has the best chance of winning inside the distance with a -270 finish prop. Luque has power and is a skilled submission grappler, so he can win the fight wherever it takes place. However, he doesn’t strike or wrestle at a very high rate so he’s unlikely to pay off his salary in a decision. He is taking on a newcomer in Jalin Turner, who has been finished twice via strikes on the regional scene.
Ferguson has a much higher floor in a decision win because of his striking volume (5.09 SLpM) but is less likely to win inside the distance with a +122 finish prop. His relentless pace and pressure match up well against Anthony Pettis, who has often struggled against aggressive fighters. Ferguson can be reckless at times, but he’s proven to be quite durable in the Octagon, so it seems like a relatively safe spot for him. His submission game is usually his best chance of finishing fights, but Pettis is a skilled submission grappler himself, so I feel that his upside is a bit capped here. Combining that with Ferguson’s high expected ownership makes Luque the preferred option for me in GPPs.
Tony Martin ($7400)(+115) – The betting odds have been moving heavily in Martin’s favor all week making him the best value in the lower pricing tier. Martin is a low upside option in a matchup against a boring grinder in Ryan LaFlare, but his decent chances of winning make him the best punt option in cash games. Martin looked great last fight after moving up to 170 and switching camps to ATT while LaFlare seems to be past his prime. He should be the better striker in this matchup and can threaten LaFlare on the ground if he gets taken down. Martin is not a lock to win, but even in a loss he’s unlikely to hurt you, as LaFlare has been to decision in every one of his UFC wins. I expect him to be popular in tournaments because of the odds value, so I think you can pivot to higher-upside options in top-heavy contests.
Other Cash Game Plays: Yana Kunitskaya ($8500), Aspen Ladd ($8200), Jussier Formiga ($7600)
Dominick Reyes ($8900)(-230) – Reyes is one of the top prospects at 205 and has looked great so far in three fights in the UFC, albeit against weaker competition. He is still undefeated at 9-0 and faces a step up in competition against inconsistent veteran, Ovince Saint Preux. OSP is way more experienced than Reyes, but he’s getting old and his chin is getting weaker. He’s susceptible to being KO’d as he stands very flat-footed and has the tendency to leave his hands down and his chin up in the air. OSP has power and is an opportunistic submission grappler, so he is still a dangerous opponent and Reyes will have to be careful. Reyes is a very talented striker though and has an underrated grappling game himself. He’s much more aggressive than OSP and strikes at a very high volume. Reyes has the second-best finish prop on the card at -160 and he will be a heavy play of mine in GPPs despite his likely high ownership.
Jussier Formiga ($7600)(+135) – Formiga is an elite submission grappler who is excellent at taking the back of his opponents if he can get the fight to the ground. He gets a good stylistic matchup against the younger Pettis brother (Sergio), who is one of the best strikers in the division but struggles to keep the fight standing. Pettis is a -155 favorite, but he lands less than 4 significant strikes per minute and has yet to KO an opponent in the UFC, so he lacks the upside to be a viable tournament option on DK. Formiga is a much more appealing option at $7600 as his path to victory involves takedowns and grappling. He strikes at a very low volume, so his floor isn’t the greatest, but he has a lot of upside if he can get the fight to the ground, so he will likely be my highest-owned fighter in the 7k range aside from McGregor.
Derrick Lewis ($7500)(+150) and Ovince Saint Preux ($7300)(+190) – Lewis and OSP are both boom or bust options in the lower pricing tier and I prefer targeting them in large-field GPPs over lower-upside options with better chances to win like Tony Martin and Gray Maynard. Both are capable finishers with low activity who will likely be losing the fight unless they can catch their opponent. These are not fighters that you want to invest a heavy portion of your bankroll on, but they are worth having exposure to when they are not expected to be highly owned. I slightly prefer Lewis because he is less likely to be finished early, but he will also be the higher owned of the two and OSP makes for a good leverage play/hedge against the Reyes ownership.
Alan Patrick ($9100)(-270) vs Scott Holtzman ($7100)(+230) – This fight is likely to fly under the radar which makes it an appealing target in large-field GPPs. Patrick is a one-dimensional grappler who consistently tries to get the fight to the ground. He’s not much of a finisher but does have a black belt in BJJ and has landed 19 takedowns and 22 advances over his last 3 fights. His opponent, Holtzman, is a high-output fighter with decent offensive wrestling but poor takedown defense and consistently ends up on his back. Holtzman gave up 8 takedowns to Josh Emmett and 5 to Drew Dober in his two UFC losses and Patrick is a better wrestler than both. Patrick doesn’t have the name recognition or finishing upside of other fighters in his price range, but he has 100-point potential in a decision and should come in at half the ownership of Reyes, Ferguson, and Luque.
Holtzman is also worth some exposure if you’re playing multiple lineups as Patrick is not a great striker and can struggle if you stuff his takedowns. If Holtzman can keep the fight standing, he will have a decent chance to hurt Patrick or out-volume him in a decision.
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